Maxed Out: Serious personal debt in Britain

November 2013

Full Report

Executive Summary

Press Release

Millions of people in the UK are currently struggling under the weight of their personal debt.  Squeezed household budgets, the rising cost of living and a stagnant economy have pushed many people to the edge of or over a financial cliff. The impact of this debt can extend far beyond the monetary consequences, affecting people’s heath, family stability and employment prospects.

In our 2007 report, Breakthrough Britain, the Centre for Social Justice identified some of the root social and economic causes of serious personal debt, including issues of materialism, exploitative lending and poor financial skills. This report also examined how high levels of personal debt were especially prevalent in Britain’s poorest communities who were suffering as a result and often left trapped in poverty. Sadly, six years on, this situation has not improved.

This report builds on this research, exploring how the financial and social landscape has changed following the financial crash and how personal debt has continued to grow. While not all debt is bad and while everyone across the income spectrum can struggle financially, we are focussed on ‘problem debt’ and the impact it can have on low-income and vulnerable people.